Long Island Community Theaters Respond to Cuomo’s New Guidelines for Reopening of Arts Venues

After Cuomo announced that venues could open at 33 percent capacity, theaters and arts venues on Long Island began to prepare for their upcoming seasons.

On March 3, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that arts and entertainment venues in New York will be allowed to open at 33 percent capacity, starting April 2, according to a press release from his office.

This limitation will allow crowds of up to 100 indoors, and 200 outdoors. In addition, all attendees must be socially distanced and wearing a mask to attend these performances. Those limits could also expand to 150 people indoors and 500 outdoors if all attendees test negative before the performance starts.

The news of these reopening guidelines has excited many performers, arts directors and theater-goers on Long Island, as no theaters in New York were allowed to host performances safely, per previous CDC and NY State government guidelines.

How has the pandemic affected Long Island theaters?

Michael Blangiforti, the Managing Director at the Studio Theater of Long Island, is excited for live theater to make a comeback. He notes that the kids at the Studio Theater of Long Island have been preparing safely for months through the theater’s educational programs and workshops, but it hasn’t been easy.

When the pandemic started, the Studio Theater staff ultimately had to make the tough decision to shut down for a few months, like many other theaters and businesses across the country did. “Having to look in the kids' eyes when we broke the news was worse than having to decide to shut down the business,” Blangiforti says.

Photo by Gwen King on Unsplash

Laura Mogul, Executive Director of the Landmark Theater on Main Street expressed a similar scenario that occurred for their theater. “By Thursday, March 12, we were starting to cancel shows and as of December 2020 we had canceled 153 events in the theater,” says Mogul.

When will we be able to see a show again?

Both of these venues are working now to put on live performances for their loyal performers and supporters, as well as the many other venues across the nation that have been fighting to keep the arts alive on Long Island, even in the face of a global pandemic.

For the Studio Theater of Long Island, kids have been in rehearsals, which were all held in accordance with CDC guidelines, says Blangiforti, for shows that they will be putting on outdoors at Fireman’s Pavilion in Lindenhurst.

Although they could have opened the doors to their indoor theater, and they want to be back on stage as soon as possible, Blangiforti expresses that they would prefer to do it safely and not to sacrifice the quality of production just for the sake of getting it onstage. “I think it’s important to not rush to the stage just because we’re allowed to open,” he says. They plan on returning to the stage as soon as possible to start hosting shows for their older performers.

As for the Landmark on Main Street, they have been working with community and music business partners to create their own virtual and live outdoor events, says Mogul.

“I think it’s important to not rush to the stage just because we’re allowed to open,” Blangiforti says.

As for in-theater performances, they have been toying around with ideas, such as a hybrid (half online live-streamed, half in-person) performance, on how to safely get their patrons in the theater.

Both theaters both expressed gratitude for those who have supported these theaters throughout the pandemic.

“We are so blessed and happy that we are still able to offer our programs… and yes, live theater will return. It will return indoors, and we’re ready,” says Blangiforti.

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